New National Development Minister Lawrence Wong pledges to keep consulting public

New Minster for National Development Lawrence Wong said in a blog post that he would keep the ministry's practice of gathering public feedback.
New Minster for National Development Lawrence Wong said in a blog post that he would keep the ministry's practice of gathering public feedback.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - On his first day as Minister for National Development, Mr Lawrence Wong pledged to continue the ministry's practice of gathering public feedback.

"I will continue the tradition of listening, consulting and engaging all stakeholders," he wrote in his first post on the Housing Matters blog by the Ministry of National Development (MND) on Thursday.

"And I will also keep this blog alive as a way to reach out to everyone," he added.

His predecessor Khaw Boon Wan had started the blog in 2011 upon taking up the portfolio. Mr Khaw is now the Transport Minister and Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure.

Mr Wong, formerly the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), added that public engagement was a regular practice at MCCY.

As an example of what the approach had achieved, he pointed to the successful bid to have the Singapore Botanic Gardens declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

"The successful inscription was the result of the collective efforts of experts and community groups who gave their suggestions and support," Mr Wong wrote.

As for his new portfolio, Mr Wong cited the planning of the Jurong Lake District as one project where the MND has been gathering ideas and feedback. "We will continue to talk to many more Singaporeans in this and other projects," he said.

Mr Wong also praised Mr Khaw's work in achieving a soft landing for a once-heated housing market. On Thursday, flash estimates showed that public housing resale prices fell 0.3 per cent in the third quarter of the year, and private property prices fell 1.3 per cent.

"I will continue the work, and I hope Singaporeans will give me suggestions and feedback so we can be even better," Mr Wong wrote.

While providing "quality and affordable homes" remains his priority, the minister also declared a new focus: improving older Housing Board towns that were built in the 1970s and 1980s "to meet changing needs".

In the short term, his priority is seeing through the implementation of the new Two-Room Flexi scheme - which merges the previous two-room flat and studio apartment schemes - as well as changes that will take effect in the next Build-to-Order launch of new flats in November. These include a higher income ceiling for new flats and housing grants.

Another previously-announced initiative that Mr Wong will see through is the Fresh Start Housing Scheme, for families with young children who once owned subsidised flats but are now living in rental flats. The scheme will help them own a flat again.

Work has started on the scheme and details will be announced in due course, said Mr Wong.